Friends & Friction – The future is now for Africa

2014-01-23 10:00

This is a milestone year. And we’ve done better than the naysayers who have emigrated, those who lived during the violence of the 1980s but decided to leave after a peaceful transition because they feared this country would crash and burn under black rule.

Some left because they feared to live in a country where the colour of your skin is no longer a guarantee of success.

Take a bow, South Africa, you’ve done well. Of course, there have been mistakes. After all, we are young and foolish.

It would be hypocritical to deny the ANC its due for its bold leadership in creating an environment that enabled that success.

Many of our readers are too young to know that every time the party came up with policies on race and gender empowerment, analysts cried this would scare away investors. But two decades later, the world’s best investor, Warren Buffett, called for companies to hire more women.

Norway has introduced a gender-quota law that requires a 40% representation of women on the boards of public companies. India has also extended what it calls the “reservation system”, quota-based affirmative action for lower castes.

But let’s be honest, who would have thought that the age-old phrase “ukhululekile, ugcwel’ ibhavu (you are so fat with freedom that you fill the whole bathtub)” would ever become a reality?

In his acclaimed book, Only the Paranoid Survive, the late CEO of Intel, Andy Grove, cautioned that the person who was the star of a previous era is often the last to adapt to change. If we want to maintain success, we have to think the unthinkable – like what would you do if you were to lose your job today?

I always say to black businesspeople that we need to think about how our businesses will succeed when the ANC is no longer in power, but that is no longer the unthinkable because it is already a reality in Western Cape.

Although President Jacob Zuma likes to say the ANC will govern until the Second Coming, well, African wisdom says “okungapheli kuyahlola (that which never ends is in itself a bad omen)”. So nothing lasts forever, unless, of course, it changes with the times.

Black businesses need to prepare for an economic environment that could be unfriendly or even hostile to our success.

Looking at how white populations have dwindled in Africa since the fall of colonialism, it goes without saying that there will come a time when there will be almost no white people in South Africa.

In that scenario, will government continue to make onerous empowerment policing regulations that make it impossible for small businesses to thrive?

We also need to ask what will happen to our businesses when our neighbour Robert Mugabe dies. Will his country thrive like Mozambique after Samora Machel, or will it disintegrate like Somalia after Siad Barre?

Governments across the world have to make unpopular decisions sometimes, and the one person who was able to do that well, Nelson Mandela, is now gone.

This is a watershed year. If our country fails in the future, it will not be because we’ve had poor leadership, but because we have failed to commit ourselves to success, starting with what you would do tomorrow if you were to lose your job.

»?Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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